Hikers live out of a backpack

The term ‘backpack’ specifically refers to a bag that has two shoulder straps. A correctly designed backpack which is properly filled undoubtedly makes life comfortable for a hiker. The opposite is true for an inappropriately chosen or packed backpack – it can completely mar the enjoyment of a hike. Through a few posts, I plan to touch on some key aspects that I have found to be important w.r.t. backpacks. I will primarily focus on three aspects that adds immensely to our joy in the mountains:

  1. Right choice when buying a backpack
  2. Correctly packing a backpack
  3. Appropriately carrying a backpack

Part-1 is on ‘a’. 

  • Most hikers prefer the more ergonomically fitting backpack with internal frame (which usually involves a pair of staves).
  • Adjustable ‘harnesses’ make it feasible to adjust a pack to the height of one’s torso.
  • A backpack of small size, used on one-day or overnight hike, will usually not have a rigid frame. Instead, it may have padding at the back which is also sufficient for giving the required amount of rigidity.


The following chart will give a rough idea of the size of a backpack vis-à-vis duration of a hike. Note that if a pack is not filled to its capacity then its compression straps will need to be tightened to make it compact.

Duration Size of backpack in litres
Up to a day 20-45 litres
Overnight to 2-3 days 45-65 litres
4-6 days 45-65 litres
Seven days or more 65-100 litres



  • A group leader may require a larger pack because they carry extra gear in the form of first aid kit, emergency kit and paperwork.
  • If you are going on an organised hike where you are expected to carry just your daypack while hiking then it is best if you pack the rest of your luggage in a duffle bag. A duffle is far easier to be carried by both porters and pack animals than a rucksack with its shoulder straps and waist belt flopping around. If your duffle is of the classical shape with its opening at one circular end then make sure to have a robust draw-string on it which can be knotted easily with cold fingers. And if the duffle is of the zippered kind then compression straps help keep tension off the zip.

For my post on how to pack a backpack, click here.

For my post on tips on comfortably carrying a backpack while hiking, click here.

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